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Latin Patriarch suggests Arafat should step down (JERUSALEM POST) By HAIM SHAPIRO 12/18/02) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1040185679694
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Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah suggested for the first time on Wednesday that Yasser Arafat should abdicate his position as chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
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In his annual Christmas message, Sabbah, the first Palestinian to serve as the head of a major church in the Holy Land, also reiterated his criticism of the Israeli occupation, suggesting that Palestinian terrorism would end when the Israeli occupation ends.
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It is possible, he insisted, for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace, but only when each has their own state.
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"All the Palestinian violence is the justified result of the occupation," the patriarch insisted. Sabbah said that if the present leaders do not succeed in making peace, they should open the way for other leaders who might succeed in doing so. When asked if he was referring to Arafat, Sabbah said that he was first of all referring to the Israeli leaders. However, when pressed, he added that Arafat too should step down if he can not make peace.
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"I´m calling to all who are unable to make peace to step down and first the Israeli authorities, because peace is in their hands, but if Arafat is unable to make peace, of course, let him also give a place to another."
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When asked why he had not condemned terror, Sabbah said that Israelis were able to carry on their daily lives while Palestinians were often unable to leave their homes.
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As far as Bethlehem is concerned, Sabbah acknowledged that there would be no curfew in the town during the holiday and he rejected calls by some Palestinians to mute or cancel Christmas celebrations in protest over the Israeli occupation.
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"Besides the sufferings already imposed upon us, it is not necessary to dispossess ourselves from the joy of the feast," Sabbah said.
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"No military authority in the world should stop a person from praying in Bethlehem, whether he is Muslim, Jewish, or Druse," he added.
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As for the Israeli refusal to allow Arafat to leave his headquarters in Ramallah in order to be in Bethlehem, Sabbah called the Israeli measure useless and inappropriate, but he did not issue a call to allow the Palestinian leader to attend the midnight mass in St. Catherine´s Church, adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity.
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In August, Sabbah led a delegation of Christian clerics to meet with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in a bid to stop suicide bombings. But Yassin would not give any guarantees to stop attacks so long as what he said were Israel´s punitive policies against Palestinians continued. (With news agencies) (© 1995-2002, The Jerusalem Post 12/18/02)
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